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April 3, 2017

National parks to put on your summer to-do list

It’s called “the great outdoors” for a reason! Our National Park System turned 100 in 2016, but age hasn't dimmed the majestic nature of these parks. Pack the car (or RV) and hit the road — these destinations are worthy of a road trip (just don't forget to get out and enjoy a healthy dose of nature when you get there)!

Map out Your Next Adventure

Badlands, South Dakota. This supernatural landscape, filled with eroded buttes and pinnacles, has rich mammal fossil beds and is surrounded by prairie that’s home to bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, wildflowers, and birds.

Petrified Forest, Arizona. The trees here are horizontal: this national park is one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrified logs — trees that turned from wood to multi-hued stone millions of years ago. Stop your car at the overlooks to see the vibrant rolling hills of bentonite clay and sandstone sediment called the Painted Desert.

Bryce Canyon, Utah. You can explore the unique natural amphitheaters, plateaus, and “hoodoos” — eroded pillars of rock created by rain, snow, and frost — by foot, car (take the 18-mile scenic drive), or horseback.

Yellowstone, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Geysers, yes (Old Faithful is one of about 500). But also waterfalls, canyons, lakes, mountains, and hot springs — all resting on an active volcano.It's fun to drive Yellowstone's scenic roads, as well — just be sure to watch out for the bison that graze along the roadways.

Muir Woods National Monument, California. A 45-minute coastal drive over the Golden Gate Bridge from downtown San Francisco, this monument preserves an old-growth redwood forest in honor of naturalist and environmental conservationist John Muir.

Shenandoah, Virginia. Combine a scenic drive with walks through the forest as you make your way up 105-mile Skyline Drive through the heart of the park.

Grand Teton, Wyoming. So many ways to take in the snow-capped peaks: drive the Teton Park Road where you may see the antelope-like pronghorn, hike to one of the lakes, or float down the Snake River.

Glacier, Montana. See the beauty of glaciers through mountains, lakes, and Going-to-the-Sun Road, the world-famous 50-mile highway. Look for mountain goats and bighorn sheep at Logan’s Pass, the highest point you can get to by car.

Take a Better Photo, No Matter Where You Go

You can tap into your inner Ansel Adams, even when your camera is a smartphone. A few pointers:

  1. Shoot during “the golden hours,” or the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The light is much softer and more dramatic during these times.
  2. Think in thirds: divide the frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically (imagine a tic-tac-toe board), then place your subject at one of the four intersection points.
  3. Go beyond the horizon. Give landscapes an interesting perspective by shooting vertically or in a square format.
  4. Avoid zooming in. When you zoom in on camera phones, you lose detail. Whenever it’s safely possible, use your legs to get closer instead.

Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.